“The creatures came rushing on…as they came right up to Aslan one or other of two things happened to each of them. They all looked straight in his face…when some looked, the expression…was fear and hatred…all the creatures who looked at Aslan in that way swerved to their right, his left, and disappeared into his huge black shadow…But others looked in the face of Aslan and loved him…all these came in at the Door, in on Aslan’s right.” – The Last Battle
In the youth group at my church, the teens used to talk about what they thought Heaven would be like. They always included favorite animals, pastimes (particularly video games), and on occasion having some kind of super power (like flying). As one of the leaders of the group, I got a little concerned they were missing the point of Heaven. Trying to talk to them about that usually elicited comments questioning how anyone could want to spend all their time, forever, singing praises to God. Which begs the question, what is so great about Heaven?
I don’t tend to meditate on fictional works, but like the other Chronicles of Narnia books, The Last Battle is allegorical for spiritual truths. The scene quoted above from The Last Battle really stuck with me today. As a writer, I sometimes get pulled out of a text by choice of phrase by an author. This one did that for me and left me wondering why Lewis would choose to explicitly the creatures’ departed to their right, Aslan’s left. It isn’t necessary in terms of strict storytelling, we would have the image from saying to Aslan’s left. After some thought it seems clear Lewis was being intentional about drawing the contrasts of that moment out fully.
The creatures who rejected Aslan chose their right instead of his. In many cultures, notably Hebrew, the right hand was a sign of one’s power, will, and favor. By saying they went to Aslan’s left, their right, the creatures rejected Aslan’s rule over them and rejected his will for them. Just as with Christ and humanity, they could freely choose to submit to Aslan’s will, but they chose their own.
People say they can’t believe God will send people to an eternal Hell. I think I can agree with that. God proclaimed His law, His will. We can accept or reject it, it is our choice. Note also that the creatures who rejected Aslan’s will hated him when they saw him. Why would God take to Heaven those who hate His will and hate Him? They would not be at peace in Heaven any more than they were with Him on earth. Because Heaven isn’t glorious and all satisfying because the bounty present there or the place itself, it’s because He is there. That’s what makes Heaven beautiful, God.
In Christ’s sacrifice, we can see His love and realize He is the hero we need. The substance of all we’ve ever longed for in this life. When we embrace Him now, we are choosing His will, His lordship, and embracing Him in the same love He has for us. I’m not saying Heaven isn’t a place, but I am saying what makes Heaven worth seeking and desiring isn’t the place, it’s the Person, Christ Jesus.